Today’s well-worn Gospel passage seems to imply that perhaps both the sheep and the goats were unaware of the impact of their actions. Both ask, “When did we see you…?”
At a recent retreat of Jesuit Volunteers, one of them reflected on the readings of the day by sharing a line from the Mary Oliver poem, “The Summer Day:” “I don’t know exactly what a prayer is. But I know how to pay attention…”
To be a sheep in this parable, in fact, requires one to be attentive. Attentive to the values, experiences, and biases we carry with us. Awareness about how we consciously or unconsciously are complicit in perpetuating systems that promote inequity. And the “we” in the passage suggests that this attentiveness is not only an individual practice but a communal responsibility.
What I’ve observed as I’ve listened to our Jesuit Volunteers share their experiences is the importance they place on being attentive to the plight of those they serve; to the systems and structures that perpetuate unjust conditions, economic disparities, political disenfranchisement, and racism; and attentiveness to where their hearts are pulling them in response to those experiences.
The practice of Ignatian spirituality helps us to be attentive to our passions to discover our purpose and vocation. It helps us to have confidence to discern where our hearts are leading us. Our God is a following God…following us as we discover our purpose and how we will do our part to create glimpses of the just society where all people flourish.
As president of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, Tom Chabolla leads an organization that creates opportunities for young people to engage in one or two years of service guided by four core values: spirituality, community, simple living and social justice and a support community with over 14,000 former volunteers. He has a long relationship with JVC with friends and family having served as Jesuit Volunteers and JVC staff. He and his wife Carolyn are proud former support people for the Santa Monica house in the 1980’s. Tom is an alum of Loyola Marymount University and the Graduate Theological Union.